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Raul Pineda

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Grammy award-winner and 3-time Grammy-nominated, RAUL PINEDA, has been named one of today’s best and most innovative Latin drummers in the world.  Raul’s unique style of playing -- a result of a coveted blend of Afro Cuban and contemporary influences applied to the modern drum set -- have catapulted him into being one of Cuba’s most influential drummers of his generation. 

Born and raised in Havana, Cuba, Raul’s musical foundation was cultivated by his challenging socio-economic surroundings.  As a young boy, Raul created makeshift drum kits by staking discarded steel rods into the ground and attaching old tin cans that had been used to store cooking oil.  His first drumsticks were made from branches of a nearby orange tree.   

The lack of resources, combined with the rich, musical environment of Raul’s upbringing was truly a benefit.  The teachings of the rumberos that gathered to play in the streets,  along with a constant echoing of Cuban music throughout the corridors of the colonial and dilapidated building where he grew up in Old Havana, engrained a deep sense of rhythmic creativity in him -- a quality that is evident in his style of playing. 

At the request of his late grandfather, musician, Nefer Miguel Milanés, Raul went on to study classical percussion for several years.  The combination of applied, modern techniques and the complex nature of Afro Cuban music became instrumental in shaping Raul’s unique sound.

By 19 years old, Raul’s reputation for speed, accuracy, imagination, and technique landed him an offer to join one of Cuba’s most popular bands at the time, Sintesis, a progressive, world-music group that fused Afro Cuban rhythms with rock, jazz and Yoruban chants.  For the next 6 years, he recorded both the drum kit and batá drums in various albums which provided him a platform to develop innumerable musical concepts.  With Sintesis, Raul performed at Festival Internacionál Jazz Plaza de La Habana, Nice Jazz Festival and Jazz a Vienne in France, Montreux Jazz Festival, North Sea Jazz Festival, Pori Jazz in Finland, Festival de Las Artes in Costa Rica, Festival Internacionál de Bahia in Brazil and many others.  At age 25, Raul was featured in a world-renowned educational video entitled, The Drumset Artists of Cuba which contributed to Raul’s rising popularity amongst drummers all over the world.

After seeing Raul perform at the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland, Chucho Valdés, one of the world’s most legendary jazz pianists from Cuba, asked Raul to record on his Grammy-nominated album, Belé Belé in Havana in Toronto, Canada – Valdés’s first post-Irakere project.  Due the success of the album, Valdés, with the encouragement from Blue Note Records, recruited Raul to form part of the Chucho Valdes Quartet from 1997-2000 that included a Latin Jazz All-Star Tour in Europe alongside Michel Camilo, Giovanni Hidalgo, Claudio Roditti, Juan Pablo Torres, Roberto Vizcaino, Irvin Acao, and Mayra Caridad Valdés.  The quartet’s 2nd album, Briyumba Palo Congo, was also nominated for a Grammy in 1999.  The following year, Chucho Valdés Quartet -- Live at the Village Vanguard, in New York City won the Grammy for Best Latin Jazz Performance.  At the time of its release, Raul was residing and teaching at various music conservatories in Denmark before relocating to the U.S. in 2001. 

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